The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, El-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression jointly filed the case on behalf of activists Malek Mostafa and Fatma Abed.
The case called for banning policemen from using weapons or lethal methods to disperse protests, including firing birdshot and buckshot shotgun shells and launching tear gas canisters.
The NGOs argue that certain sections of the decree issued by the minister of interior in 1964 detailing the proper use of weapons as well as clauses in the 1971 police law were unconstitutional.
The Administrative Court’s referral of the case to the Supreme Constitutional Court means it agreed that the decree and law in question are suspect of unconstitutionality. If the Constitutional Court finds them unconstitutional, a ban against using weapons would automatically come into effect, human rights lawyer and AFTE legal unit head Ahmed Ezzat said.
“The [Administrative] Court found these laws suspect of unconstitutionality because they lead to violations of the right to life and the right to physical wellbeing and do not achieve a balance between these rights and the state’s right to uphold law and order,” added Ezzat.
Article 1 Section 3 of the minister of interior’s Decree 156 of 1964 states that when dispersing a crowd at a protest or other gathering a policeman is to first warn demonstrators they would be shot at and ask them to leave, informing them what routes they should take.
If protesters refuse to leave the police is then empowered by the decree to start shooting intermittently to allow them the chance to escape, first using birdshot, then real bullets, and if necessary, use assault rifles.
The decree also states that the orders should come from a commanding officer but if one is not present then the most senior policeman on the scene can give them.
Article 102 Clause 3 of Police Law 109 of 1973 empowers a policeman to “use firearms if it is the only way to perform his duties” when facing a gathering of five or more people that he judges to be a threat to national security.
Policemen must first warn the protesters and clear the order with a superior officer if possible. The law references the minister of interior’s decree when it comes to details of the warning and shooting process.